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West Fargo firefighters now receive wages for work

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WEST FARGO, N.D.—Firefighters in West Fargo are finally getting put on payroll, which could cut their response times in half.

If you were to go back in time to tell Levi Nesvold he'd be a full time firefighter, he wouldn't have believed it.

"I probably wouldn't have believed you. I never knew that this was something that I wanted to do," said Nesvold.

When he first stepped in the boots two years ago, he quickly found out this is what he wants to do.

"It's not about the pay for any one of us," said Nesvold.

He wasn't lying, because before Monday, none of them got paid.

Ever since day one, the West Fargo Fire Department was a shop run by volunteer firefighters.

"That service delivery model worked great for a town of 10,000. But now that we're 35,000, we were showing our weaknesses," said Dan Fuller, West Fargo Fire Chief.

Armed with a pager 24/7, volunteers had to be ready at a moment's notice.

"When you get paged out, you have to leave what you're doing, get in your vehicle, drive to the station, then get on the truck and then drive to the call," said Nesvold.

Levi says he would frequently take breaks from work and from the dinner table to help knock down flames.

For many newcomers, this lifestyle was taxing.

"They wouldn't make it. They'd find out it's too much work and not show up anymore," said Fuller.

Matching the usual sentiment of New Year, Chief Fuller decided 2018 was a time for change.

The department can now have up to 14 full-time firefighters.

Even with all the nice new gear and the full-time crew, they're still authorized to have at least 40 volunteers in case they need an extra set of hands for fighting fires.

"Today I still maintain that our volunteers are our greatest resources. So if we can build upon that and what we've done, we come out with a stronger department," said Fuller.

Day one started quick.

"Two medicals, they had a carbon monoxide incident out in the rural area, had a hazmat odor investigation," said Fuller.

Even through the busyness, the crew is still smiling.

"One thing after another. We had to get our medical training done. Here we are today, and I couldn't be happier," said Nesvold.

All of their current full-time firefighters were hired from within as volunteers.